"Colors Doesn't Always Mean It's Beautiful": An Interview with Sliimy
Openly gay, championed by Perez Hilton, and creator of one of the most dramatic Britney Spears' cover songs in recent memory, the shyest French pop star out there today is ready to open up his universe to you, and talks all about it to PopMatters ...
Most artists try to avoid bloggers like the plague, wary of any negative criticism that could compromise their legion of followers. When you're a young French lad making music in a small town and feeling isolated from the world, in your own universe a blogger can become your closest ally should they decide to champion you on. Such is the case with French indie pop sensation, Sliimy. After his stripped down cover of Britney Spears' #1 hit "Womanizer", was praised on PerezHilton.com he's been on everyone's radar. It's his image full of vibrant colors and artistic panache that will pull you into Sliimy's universe. Still, he's the first to admit that just because it's colorful doesn't mean that all is joyful pop on his debut album Paint Your Face.
In talking with Sliimy we discover his challenges growing up feeling like a "freak," the kinds of people he doesn't want listening to his music, how being shy made him a better artist, the deception of colors and more.
On the cover of "Womanizer," you really showed a different side of the song. What was a girl power club anthem became a very playful and seductive song. So do you find more freedom in doing covers to explore new musical territory as opposed to when you're creating original material?
The intention was to show my universe with another song. Covering a song can be difficult but you put your universe in another sound and the challenge is to show who you are with a famous song. It's a new way to share music but you also have to create your own universe with your song. It's different when you write it 'cause you can talk about personal stuff. I prefer to write my own songs and share my own universe but covers can be a good way to get in link with your fans and community on the internet. Years ago we didn't have covers like this.
You once stated that "Perez is fully aware of the impact he has on artists". What do you think of the new power of bloggers who sometimes can really make or break an artist?
I think the internet is really great for that because you can create a community and the blogger can help us. That's the case with Perez when he found the "Womanizer," video and put it on his blog. This is new for everybody to see how interesting it is for some unknown people to have big power. Also it's good for our generation which is why we have to continue to build the internet and put different stuff on it.
In the "Paint Your Face", video there is a complex array of images and colors. Was that a very deliberate process or was it more of a free flowing creativity?
In that video I worked with a French director and we were talking about putting two different universes together. It was a great experience because in the video clip we don't use after effects. It's really about the imagination. I love David Bowie and Grace Jones who don't just think about music. The music is not just music. The whole art is linked with cinema and fashion. It is important to create the visual with the music. When I write lyrics or a song I already know what I'm going to share with people in video. So I love to draw some stuff and clothes and images with my computer. That's why my universe is not just this universe -- it moves with time.
There's a quote that I'm paraphrasing where you basically state that the colors you use can hide lots of secrets and sadness.
Yes, I think colors hide lots of stuff. The clowns in the circus always wear colors but there is melancholy and nostalgia behind colors. It's in link with my life. I've been living in a little hometown and that was not happiness for me. I had problems with my family and I felt like a freak and different. Sometimes you're not rejected but you choose to stay in your world and don't want to talk to others. It was hard because I was feeling like a freak and I'm still a freak but I create. The colors gave me more confidence in myself. I want to create another world with this album.
At age nine you stated singing gospel and simultaneously fell in love with pop culture. Since gospel music is so expressive did it help pull you out of your shell during that time of unhappiness?
I love soul music because when you sing that and gospel it's everything in your body. I love also jazz. That was a big experience at nine. I was introverted and found a group with singers and dancers that accepted me as I am. With music I learned to share stuff with people. That was really a new experience for me.
Many people don't think of gospel or soul music as pop culture but there is a connection there since it all compliments each other. What is your take on that?
I think there's a link in pop culture and soul music and a link between everything. You have to do your own stuff and it can be pop. It's all a game. David Bowie was good for that 'cause each album is really different with pop and rock but it's still David Bowie.
I was reading some blogs and people can be very critical of artists like yourself and Lady Gaga. There are a lot of skeptics who deem anything that is different or original as being purely a marketing gimmick. In this consumer culture do you think that speaks to the cynicism of the market that originality cannot be taken at face value?
I've always been like this. I think that you can't be appreciated by everybody. You have to be yourself. When you create art it's personal and it is impossible to control everything.
You are openly gay and there's a lot of openly gay males in the mainstream now like Perez Hilton, figure skater Johnny Weir, and Adam Lambert. So what do you think is propelling this trend of more out celebrities?
I just think people are realizing how important it is to be yourself when you create and to be sincere with people. So I'm not going to lie. If they don't like me for it then they are stupid. I don't want those people to listen to my music. I'm not doing music for narrow minded people.
The openly gay celebrities I mentioned are known for their flamboyance, sequins and edgy looks. You take a slightly different approach with your image. It's still edgy but it has more of an artistic flair to it which is rare in the mainstream gay image. It's either all flamboyance or conservative. So do you feel that there needs to be more of a balance in the gay pop culture image?
Sometimes there is wrong images and people can think of stereotypes. I think really we are all just different. Some gays wear colors and some don't. You just have to show to those people that difference is everywhere. When you hide yourself people are not aware of all the difference in the world. I want to fight against that because I want the next generation to be free to be what they want. It's important to be sincere.
You've admitted to being shy and many performers such as Michael Jackson have also stated that they are shy. I've always wondered what is it in you that defeats that shyness from coming out when it's time to perform.
It's so weird. It's a sensation when you know you're going to be on stage and you know you are going to give everything. I think when you're shy and introverted it doesn't mean you can't do anything and that it's impossible but you have to prove to yourself you can do it. It's a challenge and music is magic. When I'm on stage I know what I'm going to do and have to show people my universe.
So then has being shy helped make you more insightful and in tune with the human condition since you're so introverted?
Yes, being introverted permitted me to think about what I was going to do. I was writing some songs when I was young and drawing a lot and it made me determined to create.
Your lyrics are profound which some may miss if they get caught up in the visuals and colors. So what is it about pop music that brings beauty out of darkness for you?
I think pop music has always been like this. We have always heard the Beatles and Prince who hid different illusions. Pop music does this because it's the mix of pop culture and a vision of society. We can't create happiness when there's none in society. Colors doesn't mean its always beautiful.